Winning two of the three games will see India do a historic three! The FIFA U-17 World Cup, the AFC Asian Cup 2019 dream (which is a close possibility) and the U-23 AFC Championship.
The India U-23 side is set to take on Syria U-23 for AFC U-23 qualifier on Wednesday (19th July) at the picturesque Al Sadd stadium which hosts arguably one of the world’s best midfielders, Xavi Hernandez, week in week out. The U-23 side had planned to visit the US on a preparation tour which eventually got cancelled and the side had to make up with playing against the U-23 Singapore team.
The team looks in good shape, with Udanta Singh being the only notable absentee. The prodigious winger has been out of professional football after suffering an injury during the Federation Cup and is in rehab. In the two friendlies played against Singapore, the team looked fairly good at creating chances but missed a typical No. 9, something which Daniel Lalhlimpuia and Manvir Singh must sit up and take responsibility about.
Also Read and Watch Highlights: India U-23 0-1 Singapore U-23
The team played two friendlies in Singapore, both of them being shared with a 1-0 scoreline for both teams. Minerva Punjab midfielder Germanpreet Singh scored the goal in the first encounter, while Ikhsan Fandi scored the only goal of the second encounter via penalty in the 50th minute. The Indian colts, though, looked confident on the ball and played positive football throughout.
National team manager Stephen Constantine spoke after a training session and said, “I don’t think the weather will be a problem. It has been hot in India and we are physically ready for the games. It’s going to be very tough for us as I said earlier. We will look to play our way and deal with each opponent separately.”
Also Read and Watch Highlights: India U-23 1-0 Singapore U-23
The team is set to face Qatar, Syria and Turkmenistan as they look to qualify for the AFC U-23 Championships in China, 2018. The tournament is set to take place in January.
Stephen Constantine, “I’ve been a person who has always preferred to build a ‘team for the future.’ I’m working with this bunch of guys so that a few may come up the ranks and land up with the senior National Team in the coming days.”
Hussein Afash, “This tournament is of immense importance for us and I believe, as it is for every team here. We’ll give our best to qualify from this group. We’re all here for the same reason. We have to build the team for the future who’ll eventually feature in the senior team.”
Looking at the shape and the composition of the team, India is set to play in a mobile 4-4-2 formation. With several important players like Isaac Vanlalsawma still not called, there’s no real possibility of India playing a more dynamic 4-1-3-2, with the Shillong Lajong dead-ball specialist at the pivot. Lalruatthara and Salam Ranjan Singh look set to lead the line at the back, with Vishal Kaith having no real competition after strong performances throughout the season.
Bengaluru FC’s Nishu Kumar and ISL Emerging player of the tournament of last season Jerry Lalrinzuala are expected to take the full-back roles. In the heart of the midfield, Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh are expected to continue. Nikhil Poojary is expected to start at the right-wing while Nandha Kumar and Lallianzuala Chhangte are in contention for the opposite side of the pitch.
Up ahead, Daniel Lalhlimpuia will start with Manvir Singh, both players expected to do more of the goalscoring job. The Bengaluru FC forward has impressed fans with his link-up play and Singh has proven himself in a good hold-up role, but they need to go beyond that and need to attack the ball more and move into the right spaces. The armband could be shared between Daniel and Lalruatthara like they did against Singapore in the two games, but Vishal Kaith could also be a possibility.
India play their first match against Syria at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on July 19, 2017 (07:30 PM IST). India will later face the likes of Qatar and Turkmenistan on 21st and 23rd July respectively.
The 23-member squad stays as follows:
Goalkeepers: Vishal Kaith, Kamaljit Singh, Sukhdev Patil.
Defenders: Salam Ranjan Singh, Lalruatthara, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Davinder Singh, Nishu Kumar, Sairuathkima, Sarthak Golui, Kamalpreet Singh Grewal.
Forwards: Hitesh Sharma, Alen Deory, Manvir Singh, Daniel Lalhlimpuia.